This rich cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths. Today, Australia's population is comprised of more than 270 ethnic groups. However, until the mid-20th century, Australian society was considered, with some precision, in the rest of the world as essentially British or, in any case, Anglo-Celtic. Until then, ties with Great Britain and Ireland were hardly affected by immigration from other sources.
Australia's complex demographic textures at the beginning of the 21st century contrasted markedly with the country's homogeneity during the first half of the 20th century. While about nine-tenths of Australia's population is of European descent, more than one-fifth of them were born abroad and there is a small but significant (and growing) Aboriginal population. Of those born abroad, approximately half were born in Europe, although by far the largest proportion came from the United Kingdom. Among the largest non-European groups are New Zealanders and Chinese.
The growth of immigration, in particular Asian immigration (from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines) that began in the last decades of the 20th century, combined with the subsequent flow of refugees from the Balkans, altered the cultural landscape and imbued Australia with a cosmopolitanism that it lacked in the mid-20th century. Despite the country's long-standing Anglo-Celtic heritage, two ethnic groups, the Chinese and the Italians, have had a significant presence in Australia since the 19th century. Following the initial measures of the Whitlam government in 1973, the conservative coalition government of Fraser implemented new official national multicultural policies in 1978, which may indicate that people choose Australian descent if several generations of their family were born in Australia or if they don't know the cultural origins of their ancestors. The colonization process caused Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations to suffer widespread violence and the dispossession of their lands, fracturing and marginalizing their communities and cultural identities.
The cultural tendency to dismiss uncomfortable facts from Australian history has particularly harmful implications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Between 1947 and 1976, more than 360,000 Italian immigrants arrived in Australia to work in agriculture and major infrastructure projects. Australians have largely embraced the cultural diversity that immigrants bring, and the country is constantly drawing on these influences to build its own developing national character. Like the Chinese, many Italian immigrants came from rural environments, which helped them to excel in agriculture and viticulture.
Despite this adversity, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are still connected to their culture. Blainey remained a persistent critic of multiculturalism in the 1990s, denouncing multiculturalism from a moral, intellectual and economic point of view. For more information on measuring cultural and ethnic diversity, see the Statistical Standards on Cultural and Linguistic Diversity and the Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG). It is the set of questions about cultural diversity included in the census, such as descent, country of birth, English proficiency, spoken language, indigenous status and religious affiliation, that allow us to better understand the increasing complexity and increasing ethnic diversity in Australia.
The cultures and worldviews of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are diverse, multifaceted and complex. The capital, Canberra, developed the tradition of celebrating the National Multicultural Festival, which is held for one week in February. Australians (or Australians) have been ingenious in adapting their cultural roots to adapt them to the country's new environment, climate and resources. When gold ran out in the region, many Italians stayed in Australia and established farming communities in other parts of the country.